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BICOM Daily Briefing October 10 2003

Last updated: 2003-10-10

Once again Yasser Arafat has created turmoil and instability at the heart of the Palestinian body politic as the second Palestinian prime minister runs into difficulties of Arafat’s making. Israel searches for peace and seeks a viable partner with whom to negotiate. Israel continues to wait for that partner to emerge from the shadow of Yasser Arafat, who remains an obstacle to peace.

Media Summary

Political chaos within the Palestinian Authority, amidst threats by Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala to resign and reports of Yasser Arafat’s ailing health, is covered by all of the British press. In other news, The Times reports on an Israeli call-up of military reservists to counter increasing warnings of terror attacks. The paper also reports continuing US anger towards Syria, a subject also covered in The Daily Telegraph’s editorial. In opinion pieces, Martin Woollacott, in The Guardian, argues for Hamas to be included in the political process, while Robin Cook, writing in The Independent, expresses his continuing support for the roadmap and international intervention to push the peace plan forward.

Quotes of the Day

Palestinian MPs critical of Arafat’s political manoeuvring:

Qadura Fares, Palestinian MP (09/10): “We have no problem with Arafat declaring a state of emergency. But he has no right to declare an emergency cabinet. It has to be appointed by parliament ... He wants a cabinet that gets its legitimacy from Arafat.”

Salah Abed al-Jawad, Palestinian MP (09/10): “This government is to save Arafat's personal power. Why call an emergency government now? We have lived like this for years.”

Behind the News

Abu Ala threatens to resign amidst Palestinian political turmoil:

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) informed Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat yesterday that he wished to be relieved of the responsibility of forming a new Palestinian government. Senior Palestinian officials are trying to persuade Abu Ala not to resign. According to Palestinian sources, the latest disagreement has been brought about by Arafat’s sudden insistence that newly-appointed Interior Minister Nasser Youssef be dismissed from the cabinet. Arafat wished to limit the security powers of the Interior Minister in favour of retaining personal control over the Palestinian security forces. Amidst continuing speculation regarding Arafat’s health, Thursday’s meeting of the Palestinian Legislative Council descended into chaos as it became clear that there was not sufficient support from parliamentarians to approve an emergency cabinet, which critics claimed was unconstitutional.

IDF operates against weapons smuggling tunnels in Gaza:

A large Israeli army force has been operating at the southern end of the Gaza Strip in search of tunnels used for smuggling. There have been reports of clashes in the area. IDF sources say that there has been a recent rise of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip. An Israeli military commander at the scene was quoted as saying that weapons smuggled in from Egypt to Gaza eventually make their way to the West Bank, so Israel had no choice but to strike deep against the tunnels. Israeli military officials also said that Palestinians were trying to acquire missiles that could knock out tanks and aircraft – weapons they have not used up to now. They added that the Palestinians were trying to smuggle Katuysha rockets.

Suicide bombing wounds three in attack on checkpoint:

Two IDF soldiers and a Palestinian were wounded Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated her explosives at a military roadblock close to the West Bank city of Tul Karm. One of the soldiers sustained moderate to serious wounds and the second soldier and the Palestinian were lightly hurt in the blast at the checkpoint where Palestinians apply for humanitarian permits to cross roadblocks. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which is aligned to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility in a phone call to the Associated Press. The group identified the bomber as an 18-year-old high school student from a village south of Nablus.

Death toll from Haifa suicide bombing rises to 20:

Lydia Zilberstein, 56, who was critically wounded in the Haifa suicide bombing of the Maxim restaurant has died from her injuries. Her death brings to 20 the number of people killed in the attack. Three other members of the Zilberstein family, her husband, son and daughter-in-law, were lightly wounded in the terrorist attack and are still hospitalised.

Comment and opinion

The Daily Telegraph (10/10): “The invasion by the world's sole superpower of a key Middle Eastern country was always going to send shockwaves through the region. Five months after George W Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, the impact of the tremors is becoming clear.

Take, for example, Syria. From valuing that country's intelligence on al-Qa'eda following September 11, the Americans have become exasperated by its opposition to the occupation of Iraq and its continued harbouring of Palestinian terrorists.

The Administration has signalled it will no longer block congressional legislation that would authorise economic sanctions against Damascus. Bilateral trade and investment may not amount to much, but the green light given to the Syria Accountability Act indicates that Bashar al-Assad's regime is heading towards membership of Washington's "axis of evil".”

The Jewish Chronicle (10/10): “It would be nice to believe that the suicide savagery unleashed in Haifa has finally jolted at least some in the PA into recognising that the senseless killing must end, and that it is time to return to the process of negotiating a peace that sooner or later must come. But in the all-too-familiar public statements of condemnation by senior Palestinians, Arafat included, after the Haifa atrocity, there was no sign of recognition of a central imperative — political and ethical — in any move back to the table: unconditional rejection not just in words but action of all such attacks and of the Palestinian groups that organise them.”


The Israel Daily Briefing is supplied by BICOM